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Japanese Haiku Travel Diary – Week 1

Tori at the Shirahige Jinja Shinto Shrine, near Takashima, Japan
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Haiku Travel Diary – Adventures in Japan Week 1

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We love exploring different ways to bring you a taste of our travels and adventures. As Japan is the home of Haiku poetry we thought it would be fun to try and publish a kind of Haiku Travel journal, live while we travel around Japan. Each day on the road we aim to write a Haiku based upon our experiences that day. We shoot an image and write a paragraph to accompany it and give some context. And then we share these live on our Facebook, G+ and Twitter accounts. Then, here on the blog, we publish a weekly summary for you to enjoy. We hope you’ll read, enjoy, learn a little about Japan and then let us know what you think, in Haiku if you like. 

Haiku of The Day 1: Toytown Osaka

Looking out over Osaka from the Sky Tower

Looking out over Toytown Osaka from the Sky Tower

Toytown Osaka

Midnight riverscape.
Flyover transformed into
night sky scalextrics.

We touchdown in Osaka. After the madness of The Philippines, Japan is tidy and ordered. It seems to move in slow motion. And from our towering hotel The Crowne Plaza and the Sky Observatory in the centre of town, this sprawling city looks like toyland. As the fairy lights come on, the fast train across the country is reduced to a train set.

Haiku of the Day 2: Beautiful Technology

The beauty booth outputs in Osaka

The beauty booth outputs in Osaka. Who says the camera never lies?

Beautiful Technology

Booths dispense good looks.
Print yourself a smooth new face.
Cheat time..while you wait.

Day two finds us at a mall in Osaka where a whole floor is assigned to beauty. Not make up counters but photo booths. Dozens of them with queues of girls outside, patiently waiting to be younger, prettier and more wide eyed on the ‘seal prints’ that they get to keep. Of course we have a go. Do you think we are better looking in our photo?

Haiku of the Day 3: Shrine Etiquette (Newly Acquired)

Tori at the Shirahige Jinja Shinto Shrine, near Takashima, Japan

Tori at the Shirahige Jinja Shinto Shrine, near Takashima, Japan

Shrine Etiquette (Newly Acquired)

Wash, bow, clap twice, wish.
Ring the bell and offer thanks
watch your worries float.

We come across our first shrine en route to the Japan Alps; the Shirahige Jinja Shinto Shrine near Takashima. Unsure of what to do we try to seek advice on etiquette. Not easy when everything is in Japanese and no-one speaks English. But we figure it out.

Haiku of the Day 4: The Swimming Pool

The Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich in 21st Century Museum Kanaz

The Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich in 21st Century Museum Kanazawa

The Swimming Pool

Blue ripples on sun
distort what I once thought
as I swim through air.

Our fourth Haiku of the Day is inspired by artist Leandro Erlich’s well known The Swimming Pool at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary art in Kanazawa. From the surface this exhibit looks like any other swimming pool, yet underneath a clever thin skin of water, you can walk about and breath and notice how everyday reality has been distorted as much as the sun.

Haiku of the Day 5: Lantern Festival

Lantern Bearers at the Issaki Hoh-toh Matsuri festival in the Noto Peninusula

Lantern Bearers at the Issaki Hoh-toh Matsuri festival in the Noto Peninusula

Lantern Festival

Light has never been
so heavy, companionship
never so weightless.

It started with one man with one lantern in one fishing town somewhere in Japanese history but with the inevitable human spirit for competitiveness a simple light in the dark can now stand over ten metres tall, weigh two tons and take a hundred men to carry it. The Issaki Hoh-toh Matsuri festival is one of many lantern festivals in the Noto Peninusula. It’s quite alarming to be a spectator as you stand in a small village square when a giant night light swings towards you with ten men on it (dressed in kimonos) while a hundred sweat, grunt and chant beneath.

Haiku of the Day 6: Geisha Tea Party

Child watches visitors meditate at the Shima Geisha House, Kanaz

Child watches visitors meditate at the Shima Geisha House, Kanazawa

Geisha Tea Party

In every sip we
taste the past, smiles dancing on
blood red geisha lips.

Kanazawa is one of the few places in Japan where geishas still entertain. In the past it was wealthy local businessmen who sought them out, now it’s often tourists, desperate for a glimpse into this curious dwindling world. The geishas that still remain come out at night and the best way to spot them is in the dusk on their way to a job. But you can visit a former geisha tea house; Shima. On taking off your shoes and stepping in you are plunged into a world of bamboo and fine art, topped with a tea ceremony where I swear the ghosts of the geishas past were dancing with us in spirit.

Haiku of the Day 7: The Candy Store

Lady in the Candy Store in Toyama, Japan

Lady in the Candy Store in Toyama, Japan

The Candy Store

Inside a hard shell,
honey welcomes, sweet tooth grins.
Favours for strangers.

Monday afternoon and the kids are tired, hot and grumpy. We spot a candy shop on the map and set off to search for neon signs, marshmallow branding and the kind of boost that can only come from artificial flavourings. But this is Japan. We walk past the candy shop twice. It looks like an office, all bamboo blind and polished window. But then we catch sight of the little bags. We bundle in and are met by a shopkeeper with a beaming smile, holding out a stick dripping with honey. We try pretty much the whole shop, from meringues to soya beans to little bags of pure sugar and we fail to find an unnatural flavour. As we leave the owner holds out a basket. I go to put in a tip. But it is gifts for the kids. Sometimes, folded within the hard edges of a city, you find a soft centre and you just let it melt in your mouth.

Welcome to Japan

Welcome to Japan

More Japanese Adventures

For more on our Japanese Adventures why not check out our other Week in Haiku posts. While travelling around Japan we wrote a haiku every day, capturing something of the highlights of our daily travel experiences in verse together with a brief explanation and a picture. You can find the posts here:

Adventures in Japan: Haiku Journal Week 2. Poetic musings on hiking Japanese style, cat cafes, robot love, Tokyo gold and more.

Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 3. In which we get poetic about maglev trains, participatory dance festivals, the spirit world, pumpkins and atom bombs.

Yet Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 4. On bamboo groves, industrial incineration plants, car factories, ancient Buddhist cemeteries and more.

Looking to the A Dome in Hiroshima Peace Park

Looking to the A Dome in Hiroshima Peace Park

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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